One More Way to Keep
Your Home Cool in the Summer:
Quinoa, Cucumber, Tomato Salad

Double-feature bonus posts this week! My offering to you, Dear Reader, for being a faithful audience. Enjoy!

A few years ago, I found myself buying one of those cup-salads from Whole Foods a lot in the summer. I liked it so much I figured I should start making it, so I can (a)get it without cilantro and (b)stop feeling like such a yuppie for buying a salad I could clearly reverse-engineer to make myself. Now when I’m up for more than throwing together some greens with nuts (read: up for more chopping), I’ll use this mix as the base recipe and improvise from there. I was actually pretty surprised when I couldn’t find a blog entry for this. Perhaps because it’s so straightforward, it didn’t feel like a recipe. This week’s weather in Seattle is sneaking up to the mid-80s, which counts as hot, so here’s a good option for those hot late Summer days when you don’t want to add another degree to your house by turning on cooking appliances. Air conditioning is a luxury, yo.

Quinoa, Cucumber and Tomato Salad (+Avocado)
Jumping-off point: Spicy Quinoa, Cucumber and Tomato Salad by Martha Rose Shulman (NYTimes)

Ingredients:
– 1 cup quinoa
– 2 cups water
– salt to taste
– 2 cups skinned & diced cucumber (if you don’t skin it, it will be bitter)
– 2 cups finely diced tomatoes (used: garden tomatoes! freshly picked!)
– 1/4 c sunflower seeds for nuttiness (today I used toasted pepitas)

Optional things I threw in this time:
– 2 thinly-sliced radishes
– 1/4 c leftover chickpeas
– 1/8 c red onion, finely minced
– 2 bulbs scallion, diced
– other protein: this time I did 1 lb. chicken, diced, with arbitrary dashes of soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp garlic, and oil for sautéing.

Optional but not included this time:
– highly recommended: 1 avocado, sliced, for garnish (sadly, the bag of avocados I got this week went rotten within a day so I had to skip this delicious part).
– 1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers (to taste), seeded if desired and finely chopped (I skipped this)
– 1/2 c chopped basil or mint (it was almost 8pm when I finished making dinner, I skipped this this time)

Ingredients: cucumbers, red onion, garden-fresh tomatoes. Not shown: quinoa, scallions, radishes pep it's, vinegar and olive oil.
Ingredients: cucumbers, red onion, garden-fresh tomatoes. Not shown: quinoa, scallions, pepitas, vinegar and olive oil.

For Dressing:
– 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (if you are out, you can use lemon juice, but it’s definitely different)
– 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
– 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Foreground: dressing. Background: drowning onions.
Foreground: dressing. Background: drowning onions.

Steps:

1. Place the quinoa in a bowl, and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes. Drain through a strainer, and rinse until the water runs clear. Bring the 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add salt (1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon) and the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and translucent; each grain should have a little thread. Drain off the water in the pan through a strainer, and return the quinoa to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dishtowel, replace the lid and allow to sit for 5 minutes. If making for the freezer, uncover and allow to cool, then place in plastic bags, removing as much air as possible before sealing.

2. Meanwhile, place the finely diced cucumber in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Toss and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Rinse the cucumber with cold water, and drain on paper towels.

Diving dicing dicing.
Dicing dicing dicing.

3. If using the onion, place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes, then drain, rinse with cold water and drain on paper towels.

4. Combine the tomatoes, chiles, cilantro, vinegar, lime juice and olive oil in a bowl. Add the cucumber and onion, season to taste with salt, and add the quinoa and cilantro. Toss together, and taste and adjust seasonings.

5. Optional: This time, I also prepped and cooked some other protein, cancelling out all those appliance-heat savings, but getting more protein in our diet by marinating chicken in soy sauce and sesame oil and sauteeing it up with some garlic.

Optional sautéed protein: in this case, chicken with arbitrary dashes of soy sauce, sesame oil and 1 tsp garlic. Gluten-free option: tamari sauce. Vegan: tofu. Don't forget! Safe eating temperature for chicken is 165F! No one wants Salmonella for dinner.
Optional sautéed protein: in this case, chicken with arbitrary dashes of soy sauce, sesame oil and 1 tsp garlic. Gluten-free option: tamari sauce. Vegan: tofu. Don’t forget! Safe eating temperature for chicken is 165F! No one wants Salmonella for dinner.

6. Lightly toast your seeds. Serve garnished with sliced avocado, optional protein, seeds, and mint/basil sprigs.

Yield: Serves 3-6

Advance preparation: The quinoa freezes well, and the assembled salad will keep for a day in the refrigerator. The leftovers will be good for a couple of days.

Quinoa, cucumber, tomato salad with chicken: I didn't even miss the avocado!
Quinoa, cucumber, tomato salad with chicken: I didn’t even miss the avocado!

Novelty Rating: 2 of 5. This was novel when I started trying it, but now I’ve been making it a couple years. It’s only novel in that I am surprised every time, how much I like it, despite it’s being called that dreaded word, ‘salad’.
Likelihood of Repeat: 95%
Lesson(s) Learned: It’s still tasty without avocado. Those indigo rose tomatoes I grew outside on my patio have extra antioxidants, but not so much extra sweetness like the sungolds. Still, they taste good as visual candy. I was excited to eat this for lunch the next day.

Indigo Rose tomatoes (developed by Oregon State) started ripening to violet-red just in time! Started using them for this recipe, and the next morning some critters had already started chomping on them!
These Indigo Rose tomatoes (developed by Oregon State for extra anti-oxidants) from my deck started ripening to violet-red just in time! Started using them for this recipe, and the next morning some critters had already started chomping on them!

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